After 13 years of dying to leave Korea, I spent much of my first semester at Hopkins wanting to go back.
I never felt comfortable in Korea. I’d grown up there knowing that eventually I would go back to the U.S. for college. I was American; my Korean was mediocre; and I went to an international school that did not teach the Korean language or Korean history.
But when I came to Hopkins, I felt all the more out of place. I’d forgotten what it was like to live in the U.S., and I knew almost nothing about Baltimore. In my first week people were already telling me not to go to this-and-this neighborhood, to be wary of crime on a daily basis. I quickly felt suffocated and homesick. To cope, I spent my first semester trying to familiarize myself with my heritage, frustrated and ashamed of myself for having neglected to understand the place I’d lived in for nearly my whole life.
I decided not to make that mistake with Baltimore. Part of why I’d joined The News-Letter was because I thought it would be a point of continuity; I was part of the student paper in high school. But — as I wrote and reported nearly every week — I soon recognized it as a gateway to the city.
It was through The News-Letter that I learned about the Baltimore Uprising, about gentrification, about the deeply troubled history between the University and the city. It was through The News-Letter that I met local activists and ventured more and more out of the Hopkins bubble. It was through The News-Letter that I fell in love with Baltimore.
I owe almost everything I’ve found at Hopkins to this paper: my sense of purpose in college, a sense of community, my closest friends, my ability to slap together an acceptable essay hours before it’s due, my past two summer internships. To be part of this community full of editors, writers and artists committed to the city and amplifying voices that need to be heard, who dedicate over 20 hours every week to this paper, is a privilege I’m constantly grateful for.
From the very beginning my editors, and later my fellow editors, gave me the room to grow and learn. They trusted me when I couldn’t trust myself. Because of them, I found a voice, a sense of purpose, a home. One of the greatest things about The News-Letter is that it’s open to everyone. I joined with little experience, knowing almost nothing about the city, about journalism.
Perhaps, as I was three years ago, you are a scared freshman, already counting the days till you get to go back home. It’s okay to be scared, and it’s okay to be homesick. It’s okay if you’re not ready to call Baltimore home because your family is so far away. But you now have the privilege of being part of this vibrant city over the next four years. You can’t take that for granted. Take a look into The News-Letter — attend a meeting, write an article or two. Keep at it and you may understand what I mean. You may find a home here too.
Commonly and lovingly referred to as SIF Fair, the Student Involvement Fair (notice the “F” stands for “Fair” so the extra “Fair” on the end is redundant) is the mecca of all the many clubs and societies Hopkins has to offer, and top of the list of places to be during your first week here.
I, unfortunately, had class during SIF. As a result, I thought that my chances of joining any clubs, and particularly the newspaper, were ruined. Having worked on both the newspaper and magazine in high school, The News-Letter was vying with acapella groups for first place on the extensive list of clubs I wanted to join. While the freshman plague sadly put an abrupt end to any chances I (never) had of my musical career taking off, luckily an upperclassman friend put me in contact with one of the then Editors-in-Chief of.
A week later I was reviewing the Barnstormers’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with press ticket in hand, and writing my very first Voices column, “From Across the Pond,” with a grainy black and white selfie of a headshot in tow.
Fast forward two years and countless articles, late nights, hours editing and cups of tea later (see my first column for the rest of the British stereotypes I fall into) and I’ve gone from writer to Editor-in-Chief this year.
It’s a position that I am so, so honored to have this year. While I know that I am by no means perfect — there are more parentheses here than I would like and I’m definitely rambling on in parts — that’s part of the joy of student journalism. While I know that Sarah and I, and the rest of The News-Letter team, will always strive to write as well as we can, to investigate everything to the best of our ability and to produce work of the highest quality, there will be occasions where we mess up.
The News-Letter is a place where we can be fallible. It’s a place where we can make mistakes and own up to them and rectify them fully. It’s a place where we can try new things, experiment, grow and learn.
Now more than ever, journalism is crucially important. The term is thrown around a lot, but in a time of “fake news,” it’s important that we look for the truth. That we go to credible news sources and don’t just look to Snapchat for it. That we listen to the voices around us and elevate them rather than silence them. And I truly hope that we can be that news source for both people at Hopkins and the rest of Baltimore.